Hare Krishna

Last week I led chanting meditations during my two Tuesday sessions at Northeastern. While I usually prefer to chant for a more extended period of time, there is something magical about the NU meditation community that always gives me a bit of a rush, even though we only chant for about twenty minutes.

Our mantra last week was Hare Krishna. I prefer to know the meaning behind my words when I chant, and I find most translations cursory and incomplete; Sanskrit, like most languages (especially ancient languages!) simply can’t be translated directly or easily into English. (Yeah, I’m a bit of a language snob. :)) Not being a Sanskrit scholar, it therefore requires quite a bit of research on my part for me to feel ready to lead a chant. I thought today I’d share with you my research into the etymology of the words in Hare Krishna. It is usually translated “Hail, Krishna!”

(Disclaimer: I know very little Sanskrit. If you’re more familiar with the language, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this translation!)

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare hare

Hare comes from the root “hri.”

hR^i = to steal

hR^ita = deprived of

hR^itat.h = heart

hR^itsthaM = situated in the heart

hR^idayasthaM = heart-stationed

hR^idayaani = hearts

hR^idayii = in my heart

hR^idayeshhu = in the hearts of

hR^iddeshe = in the location of the heart

hriiH = modesty, timidity

har.h = to steal

harhH = shiva

harati = to take away

harasi = you remove

(I found this information on these two websites: http://bhagavata.org/downloads/SanskritDictionary.html and http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/sktdict.txt )


The Sanskrit word “krsna” means, literally, black, dark – a reference to the color of his skin. Krishna is shown in pictures as a dancing boy or a relaxed young man playing the flute.  He is the divine cow-herder – he spent his childhood in the countryside leading the cows home. When we chant to Krishna, we are asking him to lead us home, we are bringing to mind the abandon of worries as a flute plays.


Rama was a king who fought with great courage to retain the honor of his family and to rescue his wife, Sita, in the face of all odds. He is the embodiment of courage and the will towards what is right.

Hare Krishna is a very personal chant. We are asking Krishna to lead our hearts home, Rama to lend us courage. We are asking – please, take away from me, from my life, from my heart, from the hearts of others, that which does not serve. Steal me away from here and take me to the location of the heart, the location of peace, the place where I can abandon my worries and know what is right. And there is knowledge in the words that sometimes, to take away pain is to deprive us of something we need, and so we ask that we have the faith and courage to bear that which ultimately will help us to find what we seek.

~ by Carmen Celeste Thurston on March 26, 2011.

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